Leadership choices: When carpe diem is not really carpe diem.
Carpe diem. Seize the day. If you’re like me, the phrase really entered my consciousness after watching Dead Poet’s Society. Seize the day. Do it now (whatever it is) because the moment will soon pass and then it will be too late. Smart leadership choices can lead to greater influence.
The power and the threat in carpe diem.
There’s something powerful about the idea of standing up and taking action in the moment, but the call is tainted by the concept of “it’s now or never.” That’s where I have a problem with the phrase. I’ve never been one to believe there’s only one single opportunity to ‘seize’ what you want. In many cases, there will be other chances ahead of you.
It takes a powerful courage to seize an opportunity with a now-or-never feel to it. How many of us are strong enough to do it? And if we don’t, are we doomed to miss out forever?
A gentle way to carpe diem.
Is there another way of stepping up in the moment and taking the action which will change our lives? A way that isn’t so threatening; a way that will work for the hesitant among us?
The Latin translation of carpe diem is to “pluck the day.” It comes from a poem by the Roman poet, Horace, in which he says, “Pluck the day [for it is ripe], trusting as little as possible in tomorrow.”
“Pluck the day.” Doesn’t that sound more inviting?
Pluck those big, juicy opportunities when you see them. Scan the orchard of your life, your day, and pluck the opportunities that matter most to you. Gently pluck that opportunity and enjoy it. Smell it. Taste it. Savour it. Live in the moment with the choice you have just plucked from the tree. Don’t hesitate. The tree is bountiful and there will be more fruit to pluck.
Don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t wait for a better time to pluck. This piece might never be as juicy again. There is no right time to do it. There is no perfect time. There is only now. Do it now. Experience the moment.
Choice or pressure?
Seize the day seems impulsive. Step up, think fast, act fast, and take the risk without worrying about the consequences. Yes, there will be a time when the pressure is on and action is imperative, but leaders can’t afford to overlook the small opportunities – the gently coloured fruit. Quiet results are often the most lasting.
You can change the world quietly, without fanfare. You can change things through choice instead of pressure. When you pluck rather than seize, you change the world with a gentle touch.
How can you pluck the day?
Remember what is important to you and choose the fruit that hangs where your heart does. Be guided by your values.
Live in the moment. Be present. Look around you and pay attention to what you see, hear, feel or experience. So many leaders miss opportunities because they’re counting results. Results are important but don't forget that's only one element. Live in the now and take opportunities when you see them. Make smart leadership choices.
Understand that it’s not life or death. There is no right time to do something. There is only now. If you don’t do it ‘now’, the world won’t end. But you might have to look for a different piece of fruit. Will that ripe fruit be there tomorrow? Who knows? But there will be more fruit ripening if you choose to look for it.
You don’t have to be brave. You’re not fighting a fight or stealing fruit. You don’t have to ‘capture’ an opportunity. All you must do is keep your eyes open and look for the fruit around you. It’s there to be plucked.
Pluck the day. That sounds like something I can do. It sounds like something I want to do. What about you? Are you willing to pluck your day? Go out and look at your world through these different eyes and you may be surprised at the ripe and luscious fruit waiting to be plucked.
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Caroline Kennedy, author of Lead Beyond 2030: The Nine Skills You Need to Intensify Your Leadership Impact, is an accomplished, award-winning CEO and global thought leader on business and leadership. She is a highly sought-after mentor and coach to top global executives. A respected keynote speaker and author, Caroline’s methods are neuroscience-based to achieve rapid development and growth.